Houston bans Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech after dispute with Astros pitcher Justin Verlander

HOUSTON (AP) — Amid criticism from Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros on Thursday defended the team’s decision to deny a newspaper reporter access to the clubhouse until after ace pitcher Justin Verlander finished his postgame session with the media.
MLB said Wednesday night’s incident violated its media guidelines and the Detroit Free Press said barring its reporter, Anthony Fenech, was “intolerable.”
Verlander, who played for Detroit for 13 seasons, had just pitched a two-hitter in a 2-1 loss to the Tigers. The Astros opened their clubhouse at 9:35 p.m. As the rest of the media was allowed to enter, Fenech, who has a credential issued by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, was stopped by three Astros security officials.
Fenech contacted MLB vice president of communications Mike Teevan and was allowed in at 9:41 p.m., after Verlander had concluded his media session. Fenech approached Verlander, who said: “I’m not answering your questions.”
Verlander addressed the situation on Twitter on Thursday, accusing Fenech of unspecified “unethical behavior in the past.” The Astros said Fenech was “delayed temporarily.”
“This course of action was taken after taking into consideration the past history between Fenech and one of our players, Justin Verlander, Verlander’s legitimate concerns about past interactions with Fenech, and the best interests of the other media members working the game,” Astros vice president of communications Gene Dias said. “Fenech was allowed access to the clubhouse shortly after other media members and had the opportunity to approach Verlander or any player he needed. We believe that our course of action in this isolated case was appropriate.”
Asked for comment on Dias’ explanation, the Free Press cited a statement from executive editor Peter Bhatia:
“Blocking a working reporter from doing his job is unprofessional, disappointing and intolerable,” Bhatia said. “We will be protesting to MLB and the Astros.”
MLB’s Teevan said “the reporter should have been allowed to enter the clubhouse postgame at the same time as the other members of the media.
“We have communicated this to the Astros,” he said.
BBWAA President Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic said the organization was “alarmed” by the incident.

Detroit Lions lean heavily on Matthew Stafford with no real quarterback backup plan

By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
DETROIT — The Detroit Lions have leaned heavily on Matthew Stafford since selecting him No. 1 overall in the 2009 NFL draft.
Stafford has started since he was a rookie, and after injuries stunted his first two seasons, the strong-armed quarterback has started every game for eight straight years.
Detroit desperately needs that streak to extend through Matt Patricia’s second year. Otherwise, it’s difficult to envision how the Lions could possibly bounce back from a 10-loss season in Patricia’s debut season as a head coach.
The Lions signed Tom Savage to be Stafford’s backup after he started seven games for Houston last season. Savage, though, has been in concussion protocol during the preseason. Detroit’s other options are Josh Johnson, a three-game starter for Washington last season, and David Fales, who has never started an NFL game.
Perhaps wisely, the Lions didn’t expose Stafford to injury during the first two preseason games and held him out of practices in the hopes of keeping him healthy all year. Stafford insisted that sitting out of practices and preseason games had nothing to do with the back injury that bothered him last season.
“Oh no, I feel good,” he said.

NEW-LOOK OFFENSE
Patricia inherited offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who worked for fired coach Jim Caldwell, and chose to let his contract expire following last season. He hired former Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to bring his balanced approach to Detroit, where Stafford has been a part of pass-happy schemes for much of his career. Second-year running back Kerryon Johnson and veteran C.J. Anderson, coming off a solid postseason run with the Los Angeles Rams, will have a chance to take advantage of Bevell’s play-calling tendencies that have favored the running game.

BLUE WALL
The Lions addressed their biggest need in the offseason, signing former New England standout defensive end Trey Flowers to a five-year deal worth up to $90 million. They bolstered their front even more in late July, adding defensive tackle Mike Daniels after Green Bay released him in a salary-cap move. That duo, along with DTs Damon “Snack” Harrison and A’Shawn Robinson and end Romeo Okwara, will likely be able to slow down running games, forcing teams to pass.

THROUGH THE AIR
Stafford should have some favorable matchups when he drops back to pass. Kenny Golladay seems to be a rising star. Veteran Marvin Jones is intent on returning to form after an injury-shortened season. Newly acquired Danny Amendola provides a slot receiver the team lacked when Golden Tate was traded to Philadelphia during last season. The Lions also turned their weakness at tight end into a strength by signing veteran Jesse James and drafting T.J. Hockenson with the No. 8 overall pick.
“I’ve seen a big upgrade in that room,” Bevell said.

PATRICIA’S PLAN
The Lions experienced a rough transition last year under the hard-driving Patricia following four seasons with mild-mannered Caldwell. In Year 2, the coach and the players seem to be more comfortable with each other.
“Everyone kind of understood what was expected,” Patricia said. “And what we were going to try to do and how we were going to try to do things, which was obviously very different last year compared to what was done previously.”

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia instructs players during a joint training camp practice with the Houston Texans in Houston on Aug. 15. Patricia is starting his second season as Lions’ coach. (AP photo)

SLAY SAYS
Darius Slay seems to be motivated to earn a new contract, showing up for training camp after missing a mandatory minicamp in the hopes of getting a new deal. The one-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback is in the third year of his $50 million, four-year deal. Slay predicted he’s going to dominate this season, seeking to be compensated as one of the game’s best players at his position.
“I play for the name on the back of my jersey and this organization and my teammates,” he said. “Nothing is going to stop me from what I’m going to do on the field.”

Astros’ Gerrit Cole mows down Tigers with 12 strikeouts in seven innings in Houston’s 6-3 win

By JORDAN GODWIN
Associated Press
HOUSTON — A day after failing to back a gem by ace Justin Verlander, Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros were determined to convert on another from Gerrit Cole.
Cole struck out 12 over seven scoreless innings, Bregman homered and the Astros beat the Detroit Tigers 6-3 Thursday night. After the Tigers stunned Houston in a 2-1 win Wednesday despite Verlander’s complete-game two-hitter, the Astros gave Cole more than enough run support.
Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a fourth-inning double, and Bregman followed with a lined shot to the first row of the left field Crawford Boxes for his 31st homer.
“He set the tone,” Bregman said of Cole. “He came out dominant and was striking a lot of guys out so we knew we had to get him some runs.”
Cole (15-5) pitched two-hit ball and allowed one walk over 94 pitches. He’s 11-0 with a 1.84 ERA in his past 15 starts and has 238 strikeouts this season, one shy of teammate and league leader Verlander.
Brantley finished with three hits, including a two-run single in the seventh. He leads the majors with a .338 batting average.
Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann (1-9) allowed three hits and two runs while striking out four in five innings.
Houston went up 3-0 in the sixth on Yordan Alvarez’s RBI-double. Yuli Gurriel also added an RBI single in the seventh to put the Astros up 6-0.
In the ninth, John Hicks hit a two-run homer — much less dramatic than his go-ahead solo shot off Verlander the night before — and Niko Goodrum added a solo homer off reliever Joe Biagini.
Representing the tying run, Dawel Lugo’s deep shot to right field was caught by Josh Reddick at the wall for the final out. Roberto Osuna earned his 30th save of the season.

Detroit Tigers reliever Gregory Soto delivers against the Astros in the sixth inning Thursday in Houston. (AP photo)

New college football coaching coordinators to have large impact on their teams

By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
As major college football programs grow in size and complexity, the most important job a head coach has is hiring talented assistants and staff members.
Coordinators are especially pivotal because they often operate with near autonomy — especially when their expertise differs with that of the head coach. A good coordinator hire can change the trajectory of a program.
A few head coaches are banking on that this season. These new coordinators could have a major impact on not just their teams, but the entire college football season.

KENDAL BRILES
offensive coordinator
Florida State
Coach Willie Taggart drew some scrutiny for hiring Briles, who worked for his father, Art, at Baylor as that school went through a bruising scandal tied to sexual assault accusations. There is no questioning the move based on previous on-field results. At Baylor, FAU and Houston, Kendal Briles’ offenses have put up big numbers. He will have to work around a deficient offensive line, but if the offense clicks then Taggart’s second year in Tallahassee should be much better than his first.

DAN ENOS
offensive coordinator/ quarterbacks coach, Miami
New coach Manny Diaz calls luring Enos from Alabama the most important transfer he landed this offseason. Few teams have been so shackled by poor quarterback play the past couple seasons. If Enos can turn either N’Kosi Perry, Tate Martell or Jarren Williams into an above-average QB, the Hurricanes’ first year under former defensive coordinator Diaz could be a memorable one.

JOSH GATTIS
offensive coordinator
Michigan
Gattis is perhaps the most intriguing new offensive coordinator in the country as Jim Harbaugh seems to be ceding control in favor of a more modern approach. It’s not as if the Wolverines weren’t running spread elements and run-pass options last season with quarterback Shea Patterson. But bringing in Gattis suggests a more immersive approach. Considering all the attention and scrutiny Harbaugh gets, however this goes will either be viewed as a wild success or a spectacular failure even if the reality is somewhere in between.

ALEX GRINCH
defensive coordinator
Oklahoma
Grinch quickly built a reputation for putting together competitive defenses without a bunch of blue-chippers at Washington State, then spent last year at Ohio State. He bounced to Oklahoma this offseason as Lincoln Riley tries to find a solution to the Sooners’ lingering defensive issues. The core problem in Norman seems to be talent acquisition and development, which takes time to fix. Oklahoma hopes Grinch can clean up the missed tackles and assignments and get the Sooners’ defense to respectable in 2019.

GRAHAM HARRELL
offensive coordinator/
quarterbacks coach
Southern California
Harrell was Plan B for USC coach Clay Helton when Kliff Kingsbury bailed on the Trojans OC job to become an NFL head coach. Harrell gets to plug former five-star recruit in JT Daniels into his version of the Air Raid. How well that works out could very well determine if Helton keeps his job. No pressure, Graham.

GREG MATTISON
and JEFF HAFLEY
co-defensive coordinators
Ohio State
New Buckeyes coach Ryan Day swiped Mattison from Michigan. One of the most respected defensive coaches in the country, the 69-year-old Mattison now joins forces with the 40-year-old Hafley to remake a defense that was maybe the worst in school history last year. Scheme tweaks include the use of a promising defensive back Shaun Wade in a safety/linebacker hybrid role.

Defying the odds: Worst-in-majors Detroit Tigers beat Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander, playoff shoo-in Houston Astros

By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON — Justin Verlander was splendid against the Detroit Tigers, pitching a two-hitter and fanning 11 in another dominant performance for the Astros.
Houston’s offense wasn’t nearly as sharp on Wednesday night, and it led to an unusual, tough-luck 2-1 loss.
“Just an incredible performance,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Just not one that we could help him with.
“We wasted a really good start by our starting pitcher.”
John Hicks and Ronny Rodriguez homered off Verlander — the only two baserunners he allowed.
“The two times I gave in and gave them a fastball, they hit a homer on it,” said Verlander, who has been critical of Major League Baseball for what he believes are intentional changes to the ball that have led to more home runs.
“Baseball in 2019. I didn’t go out of the stretch at all the entire game, and we lost. I don’t know what else to say.”
With Verlander on the mound at home against the worst team in the majors, the Astros were more than a 5-1 favorite, one of the biggest favorites in an MLB game that Las Vegas oddsmakers could remember.
Hicks led off the ninth with a tiebreaking blast to left-center field off Verlander (15-5), who leads the majors in strikeouts with 239 but ranks second in homers allowed with 33.
Hicks has a long history with Verlander. His brother Daniel went to high school with him and was in his wedding to supermodel Kate Upton in 2017.
“It’s surreal for sure,” Hicks said.
“I remember being 10 years old watching him and my brother play in high school and watching him dominate.”
Verlander retired the first 14 batters, with six strikeouts, before Rodriguez homered to the seats in right with two outs in the fifth.
The veteran right-hander sat down another 10 straight before Hicks connected.
“That’s the biggest win for us in a long, long time, especially against a premium team like that, a World Series contender and Verlander on the mound,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said.
“In Detroit we got him last year at the All-Star break and we got him again, but we really didn’t get him very much tonight.”

The Astros’ Robinson Chirinos, center, is tagged out by Detroit Tigers third baseman Dawel Lugo while trying to stretch a double into a triple during the ninth inning to end the game played Wednesday in Houston. The Tigers won 2-1. (AP photo)

Detroit Lions, defensive tackle Damon Harrison OK $11 million contract extension

DETROIT (AP) — A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that defensive tackle Damon Harrison and the Detroit Lions have agreed to an $11 million, one-year extension, giving him three years left under contract with the franchise.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement had not been announced.
The Lions acquired Harrison from the New York Giants in the middle of last season for a draft pick. Harrison, 30, was a 2016 All-Pro selection.
Harrison is entering his eighth season. He’s started 16 games in six straight seasons while playing for the Jets, Giants and Lions.

Ex-Michigan State University basketball star Mateen Cleaves acquitted in sexual assault

FLINT (AP) — A jury acquitted former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves on Tuesday of allegations he sexually assaulted a woman in a motel room four years ago.
The verdict announced in a Genesee County courtroom in Cleaves’ hometown of Flint came after a nearly-two week trial that included the testimony of the Mount Morris woman, who told jurors that she had wanted to leave the motel room but Cleaves continued to force himself on her.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for a little more than two hours before delivering its verdict. Cleaves sobbed after the last of four not-guilty verdicts was read.
“Thank you for giving me my life back,” Cleaves said.
Juror Michael Lambert said the verdict came quickly after he and other jurors concluded Cleaves’ accuser wasn’t believable.
Evidence against Cleaves, 41, included a video that prosecutors contended showed the woman pulling away from Cleaves. Prosecutors argued she tried twice to escape from the motel room.
Cleaves is a revered figure in Michigan, an integral part of a Michigan State team that won the national championship in 2000 before his six-year NBA career.
And on Tuesday, sitting in a courtroom was another reminder of that team: Spartans head coach Tom Izzo.

Clemson quarterback leads preseason college football All-Americans; Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans named too

By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence headlines The Associated Press preseason All-America team, and he has two teammates from the top-ranked Tigers with him on the first team.
Lawrence, the first freshman to quarterback to lead a team to a national championship in more than 30 years, was joined on the first-team offense by Clemson running back Travis Etienne in the list released Tuesday and presented by Regions Bank . Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons was a first-team selection on defense. Clemson and No. 2 Alabama tied for the most first-team selections with three.
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, an All-American last season, was selected to the preseason first team, along with defensive lineman Raekwon Davis and linebacker Dylan Moses.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, was selected to the second team.
From Michigan, senior Ben Bredeson made the First Team as an offensive guard, while Michigan State’s Joe Bachie

Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie talks with reporters during the Spartans’ football media day on Aug. 5 in East Lansing. (AP file photo)

made the top team as a linebacker.
On the Second Team, the Spartans’ Kenny Willekes made it as a defensive end.
Led by Alabama, the Southeastern Conference placed eight players on the first team, one more than the Big Ten.
The AP All-America team is sponsored by Regions Bank this season, the first time the venerable player honor roll that dates to 1925 has ever had a presenting sponsor.

FIRST TEAM
OFFENSE
Quarterback — Trevor Lawrence, sophomore, Clemson.
Running back — Jonathan Taylor, junior, Wisconsin; Travis Etienne, junior, Clemson.
Tackles — Andrew Thomas, junior, Georgia; Walker Little, junior, Stanford.
Guards — Shane Lemieux, senior, Oregon; Ben Bredeson, senior, Michigan.
Center — Tyler Biadasz, junior, Wisconsin.
Tight end — Albert Okwuegbunam, junior, Missouri.
Wide receivers — Jerry Jeudy, junior, Alabama; Tylan Wallace, junior, Oklahoma State.
All-purpose player — Rondale Moore, sophomore, Purdue.
Kicker — Andre Szmyt, sophomore, Syracuse.
DEFENSE
Ends — Chase Young, junior, Ohio State; A.J. Epenesa, junior, Iowa.
Tackles — Derrick Brown, senior, Auburn; Raekwon Davis, senior, Alabama.
Linebackers — Dylan Moses, junior, Alabama; Isaiah Simmons, junior, Clemson; Joe Bachie, senior, Michigan State.
Cornerbacks — Bryce Hall, senior, Virginia; Paulson Adebo, junior, Stanford.
Safeties — Grant Delpit, junior, LSU; Andre Cisco, sophomore, Syracuse.
Punter — Braden Mann, senior, Texas A&M.
SECOND TEAM
OFFENSE
Quarterback — Tua Tagovailoa, junior, Alabama.
Running backs — D’Andre Swift, junior, Georgia; Eno Benjamin, junior, Arizona State.
Tackles — Trey Adams, senior, Washington; Calvin Throckmorton, senior, Oregon.
Guards — Tommy Kraemer, senior, Notre Dame; John Simpson, senior, Clemson.
Center — Nick Harris, senior, Washington.
Tight end — Jared Pinkney, senior, Vanderbilt.
Wide receivers — Laviska Shenault Jr., junior, Colorado; Justyn Ross, sophomore, Clemson.
All-purpose player — CeeDee Lamb, junior, Oklahoma.
Kicker — Rodrigo Blankenship, senior, Georgia.
DEFENSE
Ends — Kenny Willekes, senior, Michigan State; Julian Okwara, senior, Notre Dame.
Tackles — Leki Fotu, senior, Utah; Marvin Wilson, junior, Florida State.
Linebackers — Paddy Fisher, junior, Northwestern; Evan Weaver, senior, California; Shaquille Quarterman, senior, Miami.
Cornerbacks — Kristian Fulton, senior, LSU; CJ Henderson, junior, Florida.
Safeties — Alohi Gilman, senior, Notre Dame; Jordan Fuller, senior, Ohio State.
Punter — James Smith, junior, Cincinnati.

Houston Astros crack 3 homers in 6-3 win over Detroit Tigers

By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON — Houston’s win over Detroit on was tempered by news that shortstop Carlos Correa and starter Aaron Sanchez are both heading to the injured list.
George Springer, Jose Altuve and Marti

n Maldonado homered to lead the Astros to a 6-3 victory Tuesday night before manager A.J. Hinch announced the impending moves.
Their early offensive surge against Spencer Turnbull (3-12) came on a night Sanchez didn’t get out of the third inning. He allowed four hits and three runs with two walks in a season-low 2 1/3 innings in his fourth start since a trade from Toronto. The team didn’t say he was injured during the game, but Hinch said afterward that Sanchez had been dealing with a sore pectoral muscle for some time and that he would be placed on the injured list Wednesday.
“He didn’t look like himself and the reason I took him out was I saw a little decline in (velocity),” Hinch said. “He started going to his breaking ball all the time. We want him to throw more breaking balls, but it looked like he was just trying to spin the ball in there.”
Sanchez said he’s been experiencing soreness in his pectoral muscle for six or seven starts and that he’d been trying to work through it.
“It’s kind of been up and down and obviously today when my (velocity) drops the way it did, there’s no sense in trying to push through it,” he said. “Especially knowing where this team is going, and I want to be a part of that down the stretch. So the best bet is just to figure out what’s going on and work from there.”
Correa will also be placed on the IL Wednesday after leaving Monday night’s game after the first inning with back discomfort. It will be the second stint on the IL this season for Correa, who missed two months earlier this season after his rib was fractured during a massage.
Brad Peacock (7-6) took over for Sanchez and struck out three in 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Collin McHugh, Joe Smith and Ryan Pressly combined to pitch four scoreless frames before Roberto Osuna collected his 29th save in 34 opportunities with a perfect ninth.
Turnbull allowed six hits and five runs in three innings, losing his eighth straight decision.
Victor Reyes hit his first career leadoff homer for the Tigers.
The Astros tied it up when Springer went deep for his 10th leadoff homer this season. That’s a franchise record, eclipsing the nine Springer hit in 2017. Three pitches later, Altuve launched a homer into the right-field seats.
“When we start the game with two homers that’s a great start, and George and Jose both jump-started us a bit,” Hinch said. “We don’t have to rely on the homer. I think that’s one of the beauties of this offense. But when we do homer everybody loves it.”
Altuve had a two-out RBI single in the second, and Michael Brantley followed with a two-run double that made it 5-1, extending his hitting streak to 14 games.
Miguel Cabrera drew a bases-loaded walk in the third against Sanchez, who was lifted one batter later. Peacock allowed Dawel Lugo’s RBI fielder’s choice to make it 5-3, but the Tigers couldn’t draw closer.
Maldonado homered to left-center in the fifth.
It was the second straight night the Tigers lost despite finishing with more hits than Houston. Detroit had 10 hits, but was 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left nine batters stranded as the team dropped its fourth straight.
“Turnbull was all over the place, misfiring. … There was a lot of traffic out there, and before you know it, it kind of took us out of our flow of offense because we were playing so much defense,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And that’s what normally happens.”

Clemson No. 1 in AP preseason college football poll; Michigan Wolverines 7th, Michigan State Spartans 18th

By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
Cross off another milestone for Clemson, college football’s newest superpower.
For the first time, the defending national champion Tigers are No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 presented by Regions Bank. The Tigers won the program’s second national title in three seasons behind freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence in January. Clemson now can claim equal standing with Alabama at the top of the sport.
The Crimson Tide, coming off a 44-16 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship, is No. 2. Clemson received 52 first-place votes and Alabama received the other 10 from the media. Clemson snaps a record-tying string of three straight years in which Alabama was preseason No. 1.
Georgia, Alabama’s Southeastern Conference rival, is No. 3, followed by No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Ohio State.
Michigan came in at No. 7 while Michigan State is No. 18.
The Tigers enter 2019 with a 15-game winning streak and eight straight double-digit victory seasons. Since 2015, when they lost the national championship game to Alabama, the Tigers are 55-4.
Clemson and Alabama have split the last four national championships, played in the last four playoffs and are poised to make it five straight.

Michigan State defensive tackle Mike Pansiuk, left, high fives during a practice on Monday in East Lansing. The Spartans are ranked 18th in the AP college football preseason poll. (AP photo)